Esko uses trip to gel as a team


March 31, 2023


Members of the Esko baseball team enjoy some time in the pool at the Cabana Bay Resort in Orlando. The team traveled to Orlando last week to get some playing time in the sun while Carlton County remained buried in the snow. Esco is ranked No. 1 in a preseason class AA poll.

Last season ended abruptly for the Esko baseball team. The Eskomos had an incredible regular season, but were stunned with back-to-back losses at the hands of Marshall and Proctor in the Section 7AA playoff semifinals. With all nine starters back, and a deep pitching staff, the Eskomos come in as one of the favorites this season.

To help jump-start the season the Eskomos spent last week in Orlando, Florida, where they were able to get time on the field as well as get in some scrimmaging outside of a northern Minnesota gymnasium.

"If anything, the guys realize how important everything is after the way last season ended," said Esko head coach Ben Haugen. "We felt very capable last year of making a run to the state tournament and it didn't end the way we would have liked."

The Eskomos finished the season 20-5, including the two playoff losses. With their entire

starting lineup intact as well as depth at every position, the Eskomos have come into the season ranked as one of the top two teams in the state in Class AA, according to the most recent Breakdown Sports USA publication. In fact, the publication ranked Esko No. 1 and Marshall No. 2 in the state.

"We won't run from that and I've told the guys to embrace the fact that we will see every team's best when we play them," Haugen said.

Leading the pitching staff will be senior fire baller Cale Haugen along with junior flame thrower Finn Furcht. Both Haugen and Furcht are throwing 90-91 miles per hour and Haugen is headed next season to Minnesota State-Mankato. Joining that duo as some of the best throwers in the area are junior Dylan Marciulionis and sophomore Sam Haugen.

"Right now those four are our top four pitchers, but we have some other great arms that are very capable of starting on almost every other team in the area," said coach Haugen. "As a coaching staff we need to do a better job of getting some of the other pitchers time on the mound so we can add to our depth come playoff time."

Offensively, the Eskomos have a ton of strong sticks in the lineup, including both of the Haugens, Isaak Sertich and Bryce Hipp.

"Bryce (Hipp) is working extremely hard to try and become our top catcher," said Haugen. "We

have a great group of seniors and juniors, and most of them come from families where their dads played ball and they are able to learn a lot from their dads, so it makes it easier trying to coach them."

Esko has 28 players on their roster and 19 of those players made the trip to Orlando, which gave them a chance to get some time as a team to bond together and play a little baseball at the same time.

"In a normal year it might make a big difference early in the year, but when we get back from Florida it will still be two to three weeks before we can get outside again, so I am not sure how

much of a difference it will actually make," said Haugen. "The big thing is having a chance to let the kids bond and enjoy each other and smile while they are outside playing baseball."

As far as what the future holds Haugen is keeping his emotions in check.

"I'm a bit reserved, but I am super-excited for this group," said Haugen. "We have all of our

pitchers back, we have a lot of varsity experience and hopefully the guys will grow with the experience of last season and take that next step."

If the Eskomos are to make a run to the state tournament it won't be easy, as Section 7AA is perhaps the toughest section in the state and is loaded with talented teams.

"There are a lot of good teams with Duluth Marshall, Proctor, Mora, Rock Ridge, and others that could win the section," said Haugen.

If the Eskomos do win the section, it will certainly be well-earned this season.


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